Remember how I stated that the most important relationship to address in the quest for better living is the one that you have with yourself? Therefore, it goes to follow that the standards for better living must be YOUR personal standards, and no one else’s. This will take some work!
Standards are the behavior and actions to which you have chosen to hold yourself accountable. The issue of choice in personal standards is essential. All too often, standards for behavior seem to be imposed, rather than chosen. Standards of acceptable behavior are taught implicitly by our families, and explicitly by some structures of our society (schools, churches, the military). Some of the standards each of us have experienced fit beautifully; while some may seem too low, and some impossibly high.
A lot of frustrations occur when unnamed standards are presumed, both in the workplace and in personal relationships. Something as simple as “what does it mean to be on time?” can cause suffering and loss of trust if not discussed and agreed upon.
Understanding personal standards MAKES YOU SMARTER. Knowing that others have standards, and being aware of the standards you have, can be the Rosetta stone in getting the “clue” as to what’s going wrong when interpersonal relationships get rocky.
Have you ever found yourself unable to give someone the benefit of the doubt, or find that you are focused on how they are wrong regardless of the topic? Try this: shift from thinking “it’s them” to seeing it may be a standards clash.
- What’s going on that makes me react?
- What is it that is so different between this person and me?
- How does that make them better or worse than me?
- What value do they offer that I don’t?
- How does it serve me to undercut or devalue this person?
NEVER FORGET: your standards are yours, period. Expecting to impose your standards on others will keep you frustrated. Look for what’s working in the relationship, not what’s wrong in the person.
Can you name your standards? Upon naming them, do they seem to fit? If they are too high, they will feel like “shoulds.” If too low, can you raise them a bit?
Please chose and commit to your standards because they reflect the best of the behavior you’re willing to acknowledge for yourself.
Some basic personal standards would include:
• I am cordial to my neighbors
• I pay my bills on time
High personal standards look like this:
• I always tell the truth, and will not become defensive about the outcomes
• I always arrive five minutes early to my appointments.
After you identify the standards presently in your life, here are some guidelines to assist you in choosing the standards to keep which will support your better living:
• Understand that standards are a choice, not a requirement.
• Standards are for you to enjoy…not “examples” to force upon on others.
• The higher your standard, the faster your needs disappear…you’ll no longer be reacting to needs, but transcending them. (Refer to the “needs needs, we’ve all got needs” post.)
• Review your standards from time to time, and reset them as your circumstances change.
• Remember to always honor the standards of others.
• In working with others, be sure you are clear about your standards, and theirs, and get clear on shared standards so you can avoid unnecessary conflicts!
Mary Ellen Sailer, Ed.D.